The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought difficult economic conditions on Dundalk and all of Baltimore County, but the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) will soon introduce a solution for those seeking a change.
Beginning with the fall semester, CCBC will offer tuition-free courses to all those who qualify. CCBC’s president, Sandra Kurtinitis, said this will be made possible due to a combination of federal pell grants, scholarship funds and federal stimulus money.
“What we’ve done is we’ve put everything into one pot,” Kurtinitis told this newspaper. “That’s an odd way to say it, but we have federal stimulus that we’ve received that must go to students. We have an increase in our Baltimore County Promise Scholarship funding.”
Kurtinitis said that tuition-free courses are coming at a time when unemployment is high and people are unsure about what the future holds. The “tuition-free” part is made possible due to CCBC pooling together several scholarships, as well as federal and state stimulus funding it has received that must be spent on students, she said.
“Given this time we are in, this pandemic-infused darkness that we’ve all been in, people are hurting, people have lost jobs, high school graduates but perhaps didn’t go off to their college of choice,” Kurtinitis said. “Students of other colleges are remaining at home. We know that there are a lot of people out there who are struggling to know what their next steps should be.”
Kurtinitis said that CCBC has pooled together around $35 million for students to apply for in order to take tuition-free courses. Students must qualify to register courses, and some of the scholarships have certain requirements, such as residential requirements or household income requirements, she said.
“If they qualify, we’re going to do everything in our power to make it possible for students who have been affected by [COVID-19] and even students who haven’t been affected by [COVID-19] but plan to come to CCBC, or are CCBC students anyway,” Kurtinitis said. “We’re just doing everything we can to make sure that the news gets out, that if you are interested, we want to have a conversation with you.”
Kurtinitis said that students who do qualify will have access to CCBC’s entire course catalog. Degree-seeking students will be able to take required courses in their respective degree fields. Those who may be seeking a new technical skill will be able use scholarship money for workforce training programs, she said.
“We offer anything, whether it’s online, in-seat or hybrid,” Kurtinitis said. “This is true for students who wish to pursue some type of degree program, but it is also true for people who have lost their jobs. We’ve received a very nice award from [Gov. Larry Hogan’s] stimulus fund. He had $45 million to fund education at all levels. He awarded $10 million to the community colleges.”
“Because we have such a large workforce program, we do so much in the non-credit world where in six weeks we can turn into a home health aide or a certified nurse assistant. It’s not always that short of a timeframe, but people have lost their jobs. Without jobs, and given that the stimulus funding ends this week, people who lost their jobs and need to get a new job are who we are reaching out to.”
Kurtinitis said that CCBC offers over 100 academic programs, but the community college offers “hundreds” of short-term certification programs.
Kurtinitis said that tuition-free courses will continue until all the money runs out. CCBC continues to apply for all possible funding and will continue to do so going forward, whether it be at the federal or state level, or through private philanthropy, she said.
“We are scraping every dollar we can into this one bucket because we have people in our communities who are hurting,” Kurtinitis said. “If my children were still of college age, I’d be thinking twice before sending them back to Massachusetts to live in a dorm and study online. I’d be thinking, ‘maybe it’s better to spend a semester or two at the community college.’”
The CCBC Fall 2020 semester is scheduled to begin Aug. 31. Those who wish to register for fall courses or to find more information about what is offered at CCBC can do so by visiting www.ccbcmd.edu.